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Anatomy class draws in Butte students
Butte High teacher Wes Peters, left, shows a human lung to his students during a visit to the Montana Tech University cadaver lab on April 6, 2006, in Butte, Mont. High school students from left, Shane Doherty, Carlee Sholey and Mollie Riordan look on. The optional field trip is part of Peters' anatomy class in Butte, Mont.

BUTTE — Butte High anatomy teacher Wes Peters saves the chapter on human reproduction until May of each school year. That's because he knows that seniors — who are suffering from the end stages of "senioritis" — will pay attention.

And it seems to work, as shown in a recent lively session where anatomy students stayed engaged in the clinical subject matter, asking detailed questions without a hint of embarrassment or reservation.

"I thought they'd be more subdued," Peters said jokingly as he spent the better part of an hour outlining the male and female reproductive systems on a computerized Smartboard and dry-erase board.

For an entire year, Peters has guided seniors through a detailed journey examining the human body. And along the way, students have dissected animal hearts and eyes and had the opportunity to view cadavers, checking their squeamishness at the door.

They've also gotten a close-up view of how the body works, which is perfect for students like Stephanie Janhunen, a senior who will be entering nursing school this fall.

"I love it; it's interesting," she said of the class. She also likes that the class gives her an edge before she begins college studies. "It let's me get a head start on it," she said.

Even seniors like Abby Fawcett, who doesn't plan a career in the health care field, say the class is well worth their time.

"It's so in-depth," she said. "I think it's a good thing to know about." The anatomy class, a senior-level class because of the work and study required, is in its second year. Although it had been tossed around as a course offering for several years, it was prompted by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Before that, Butte High was the only Class AA school without an advanced anatomy class. And the class has proved to be popular since Peters teaches it three times a day to about 60 students. About 80 students have signed up to take the class next fall.

It offers a challenging elective with an emphasis on science, something the No Child Left Behind Act favors. It also came about because Peters is active in Health Service Career Pathways.

Health Service Career Pathways is a community group of about 20 people who, through a grant, have been responsible for bringing things to Butte, such as certified nursing assistant and online classes for interested students.

The group is cognizant of a looming health care worker shortage, and the anatomy and physiology class is a way to pique students' interest.

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Peters' goal is to help students understand how and why the body works the way it does. "There's many adults who don't know why," Peters noted. He works hard to ensure that students are not merely memorizing things but gain an appreciation and understanding of body functions.

To further that understanding, students are given the option of viewing cadavers three to four times each year at Montana Tech. Working with the biology department there, Peters and students meet after hours to view the bodies, whose faces are always covered.

Students are able to see organs and trace the body's different systems. "We spend a lot of time on physiology and how things work," he said.

Peters has also forged a good partnership with Ranchland Packing, which gives students animal eyes and parts to dissect. Again, Peters does not force students into dissection if it is a problem.

But more likely, there's another problem.

"Sometimes they fight over who gets to do the dissecting," he said.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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